James Ryan and Joey Carbery in Ireland side to face Japan

Andy Farrell selects strongest side at his disposal for match in Dublin

It is a measure of the respect which Japan now command that Andy Farrell has picked his strongest available side for Saturday's rematch with their World Cup pool conquerors at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 1pm, live on RTE).

Ten of the starting XV and 13 of the match-day 23 involved in the 32-18 win over England last March which secured third place in the 2021 Six Nations are unavailable for one reason or another but in pretty much every instance the remaining starters or replacements have held their place or been promoted.

Hugo Keenan, Jacob Stockdale, Dave Kilcoyne and Josh van der Flier are retained from that starting line-up, while Ronan Kelleher has been promoted from the bench with Rob Herring dropping down to the replacements.

Peter O'Mahony, Jamison Gibson-Park and Jordan Larmour, who were all replacements that day, are promoted to the starting line-up.


Despite picking up an abductor injury in training last week, which effectively prevented him from joining the Lions as a replacement for Alun Wyn Jones, James Ryan has been named as captain.

The game marks a welcome return at outhalf for Joey Carbery, who won the last of his 22 caps as a replacement in the World Cup quarter-final defeat by the All Blacks in October 2019.

Likewise, after recovering from the concussion issues which meant he missed the entirety of the Six Nations before a strong end to the season with Leinster, Caelan Doris is restored at number '8'. It will be the 23-year-old's first Irish appearance since his man-of-the-match winning performance in the Nations Cup third-place play-off win over Scotland last December.

Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell are re-united in midfield and like them Finlay Bealham will also make his first start since the 23-10 Autumn Nations Cup win over Georgia last November, albeit this time in his preferred slot at tight-head rather than in the loose-head role he was given that day.

His Connacht teammate Ultan Dillane will make his fourth test start, and first since the Six Nations win away to Italy in February 2019.

There are no test debutants in the starting XV and of the dozen uncapped players in the 37-man squad only Gavin Coombes is in line for a first cap after being named on the bench. Clearly the game against the USA next Saturday has been earmarked as a preferable outing to experiment with some new blood.

An attendance of 3,000 is being permitted as part of the Government’s pilot schemes.

Meanwhile, Japan head coach Jamie Joseph has made just three changes to the Brave Blossoms starting XV form last week's 29-10 defeat by the British & Irish Lions.

The brilliant Kotaro Matsushima has moved to fullback, resulting in a call-up for the uncapped 29-year-old, Fijian-born winger Semisi Masirewa. Having made an eye-catching debut off the bench last week, 23-year-old scrum-half Naoto Saito has been promoted to the starting line-up as has the dynamic Hihglanders number '8' Kazuki Himeno, Japan's try scorer last week.

The 28-year-old, South African-born outhalf cum centre Shane Gates is also in line for his debut after being named on the bench, where Joseph has returned to a more conventional 5-3 split.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD); Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary's College), Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor), Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan); Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf), Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster); Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne), Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers), Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians), James Ryan (Leinster/UCD, capt), Peter O'Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution), Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD), Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD). Replacements: Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch), Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD), John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution), Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University), Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster), Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon), Billy Burns (Ulster), Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution).

Japan: Kotaro Matsushima; Semisi Masirewa, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Naoto Saito; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Jiwon Koo, Wimpie van der Walt, James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Lappies Labuschagné, Kazuki Himeno. Replacements: Kosuke Horikoshi, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelson, Tevita Tatafu, Kaito Shigeno, Rikiya Matsuda, Shane Gates.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times